Before I begin this post on the best rechargeable AA batteries, let me be specific on what I’m referring to first. When you talk about “rechargeable AA”, what you’re actually referring to, is an NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) battery. So, just so it’s understood, these are not alkaline batteries, they’re NiMH. Completely different chemistry.
The photo below shows four different NiMH brands.
In order of appearance:
Sanyo Eneloop, Thunderbolt Magnum, Duracell, and SONY Cycle Energy.
Most NiMH users seem to prefer the Sanyo Eneloop… and with good reason.
- They have a quality name behind them…(Sanyo)
- They have very low self discharge
- They can hold a full charge up to 1 year
- They’re made in Japan…not China!
Generally speaking, when looking for the best rechargeable AA batteries, usually those made in Japan are among the most trustworthy. The Duracell that’s pictured is made in Japan. Although not labeled as such, those “in the know” refer to THESE Duracell’s specifically, as “DURAloops” since (quality-wise) they’re more related to the Eneloop battery discussed earlier. The SONY cells are made in China.
It’s common on many battery discussion boards to find regular posters speaking less enthusiastically about Chinese made cells. Duracell produces rechargeable cells that look 90% identical to the ones pictured…but are Chinese made. The difference is in the coloring on the button top. The Chinese cells are black around the top button, the Japanese cells are white…just like Eneloops. Again, Japan-made batteries are traditionally better quality. It’s mostly due to the much cheaper and lesser known Chinese brands sold online that have given them the poor reputation they have. Usually if they’re branded with a “quality” name like SONY or Duracell, they at least have a level of standard to adhere to.
Batteries… and LSD!
It’s also important to note that some, not all, NiMH cells fall within the “low self discharge” category. This indicates that while sitting in an idle state, at full charge, that the battery will retain about 90% of that charge for up to a year. Both the Eneloop’s and the SONY classify as “LSD”. The batteries pictured are my own cells. I’ve never had any issues with any of them in normal use. I mainly use these batteries in LED flashlights and can attest to the fact that even after sitting idle for long periods of time, that they still retain over 75% of their power.
In terms of run-time, I can’t say with any accuracy that one cell lasts longer than another. As with any rechargeable battery, it’s the cell’s capacity that will determine that.
The same cells from above are pictured below, this time to show the power capacity of each. (again in order of appearance)
The Eneloop is 1900 mAh
The Energizer is 2000 mAh
The SONY is 2100 mAh
The Thunderbolt has the highest capacity at 2300 mAh
As you’ll notice, each battery operates at 1.2 volts. This is standard with NiMH.
Bottom line; when looking for the best AA rechargeable batteries…buy quality. As with anything, you get what you pay for! I know this isn’t news to anyone, but it’s really all you need to know.
Your questions and comments are welcome, as well as any experiences with NiMH you’d like to share.
For a great selection of NiMH — including Sanyo Eneloop — CLICK HERE!